“Rulings, It’s What We Talk About”

Quite simply, a Referee is someone who has been named to decide questions of fact and apply the Rules. We are here to help the players with decisions based on facts and how the Rules of Golf are to be applied in certain scenarios. And those scenarios are what we converse about, no matter how complex or how plain sailing. A recent scenario took place at the Memorial Tournament, and it involved Matt Kuchar, the 2013 champion.

The Memorial, Jack Nicklaus’ tournament, is played at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio. The club’s name was inspired by Jack's first British Open victory in 1966 at Muirfield Golf Links in Scotland. His course was officially dedicated on Memorial Day, May 27, 1974, with an exhibition match between Jack and Tom Weiskopf. The first Memorial Tournament was played in May 1976, and was won by Roger Maltbie in a playoff over Hale Irwin. The Memorial continues to be one of the PGA Tour’s premier events of the season, and it’s not just because of the famous peanut butter milkshakes.

During the first round of this year’s Memorial, Matt Kuchar’s ball was involved in a scenario that stole five minutes of TV time, all in an effort to get relief for an embedded ball. A ball is embedded in the Rules of Golf when a player’s ball is in its own pitch-mark made as a result of the player’s previous stroke and where part of the ball is below the level of the ground. Kuchar’s drive on the 17th hole rolled forward into a pitch mark from earlier play. Based on facts provided by a spectator and a review of video evidence, the ball did not come to rest in its own pitch mark. However, Kuchar wanted clarification on another point, whether or not he was allowed relief if his ball made a “secondary pitch mark”.

“When I actually saw the video of it, maybe there's potential here that it broke new ground, and I called over the rules official, not sure exactly of the embedded-ball rule, as far as if a ball breaks new ground and in someone else's pitch mark, is that a new embedded ball.” Kuchar’s request for relief was denied by not one but two officials, under Rule 16.3. Based on the lie of the ball in the pitch mark, the spectator’s account and the video evidence, Kuchar’s ball was not embedded.

 Salesmanship didn’t work for Kuchar, and he hit his approach into the first cut of rough over the green. Ending up in another player’s pitch mark is worse luck than ending up in another player’s divot, and definitely more rare. But don’t feel too bad, Kuch got up and down for par.

Now it’s your turn! We want to hear about scenarios that you have been involved with this season. In particular, how you have helped with the application of the Rules and how facts have helped you reach a decision. Your response may be lucky one that is handpicked to appear in a future edition of the Volunteer Newsletter. Please submit your responses here.